The GOP: Slouching Toward Irrelevance?

Ater the thrashing Republicans took at the polls in 2008 many political analysts speculated that the GOP would be a minority party in Congress for decades to come. And those same pundits predicted that it might also take decades before a Republican would be back in the White House. I rejected those predictions as overly optimistic. No more. The unanimous GOP rejection of President Obama's stimulus plan this week in the House of Representatives was one in a series of missteps since the election that have accelerated the Republicans' slide toward political irrelevancy.

Republican National Committee

Newt Gingrich

Apparently it was the best the current GOP leadership could do until they figured out how to do dumber things including opposing President Bush's efforts to save the American automobile industry or to slow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's nomination while the Middle East burned.

Then there was the graceless comment by House Republican Leader John Boehner telling GOP members to vote no on Obama's stimulus plan just before the president made an unprecedented trip too Capitol Hill to confer with House Republicans on the package.

But in retrospect all this is not that surprising. The Republicans have not had a creative idea in years. They have become the party of the angry right for whom obstruction and attack politics is the only strategy. One needs only look at the House Republican's alternative to the Obama stimulus bill, offered on the day the measure passed, to realize how utterly clueless the party of Lincoln has become.

Before the final vote to approve Obama's plan House Republicans offered a $475 billion dollar alternative. Now here's a surprise, the GOP proposed the entire $475 billion go for tax cuts to corporations and wealthy Americans! This after eight years of trickle down Bush tax cuts that made the rich richer and left most other Americans poorer. Republicans don't seem to realize that supply side tax policies have failed to lift the real incomes of the vast middle class while deepening poverty levels for poor Americans.

During his campaign President Obama promised to seek change in the rampant polarization and partisanship that has paralyzed Washington for two decades. In the first days of his administration Mr. Obama has met with more Republican congressmen than George Bush did with Democrats in his last four years. Obama has sought compromise with Republicans and has included several provisions the GOP wanted on taxes in his stimulus package. -- For his efforts at bipartisanship Obama received not a single Republican House vote.

The GOP will pay a political price at the polls for whatever short term accolades they have received from right wing pundits and talk show hosts for their polarizing tactics. The truth is that the Republican caucus, especially in the House, has become more rightwing since the 2008 election led to the defeat of several moderate Republicans. The GOP is now a fringe party and increasingly less relevant. All they can do is lash out at Obama as a "cult" figure (and this from the crowd that worships Ronald Reagan like a deity!).

Although there is little doubt that Democrats were complicit with Republicans in ignoring the housing bubble, it was the unfettered free market, so lionized by Republicans, that turned mortgages into exotic investments that caused the bubble to burst. It was Republicans who spent taxpayer money on "bridges to nowhere" and who refuse now to repair bridges to somewhere. It was Republicans' addiction to big oil that has led to U.S. dependence on foreign oil while refusing to support alternative energy to make us energy independent.

The Republicans have not a single member in the House of Representatives from New England. The GOP's refusal to support the Obama stimulus will likely be the beginning of the end for Republican members from the industrial Northeast and Midwest. They will be left with right-wingers from the South, the Northern Plains and the Rockies. Furthermore, the inability of many Republicans to put their country above ideology takes away any saliency from the GOP's decades old attack on the Democrats' patriotism, and raises the same question now about the right.

There are still reasonable Republicans in the Senate who are attempting to find common ground with the Democrats on the stimulus program. And my guess is the few moderate GOP voices left in the House will ultimately support the final legislation.

The rest of the Republicans and their increasingly shrill mouthpieces have made it clear that they want President Obama to fail lest their right-wing dogma be exposed for the vile canon it is. This group of Republicans are simply losers and increasingly irrelevant. To them I take liberty with the late newsman Edward R. Murrow's famous line and say good night, good luck, and good riddance.